Burton manager Nigel Clough is not spending much time briefing his players on Manchester City’s qualities as he does not want to frighten them ahead of the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final.
Sky Bet League One club Burton will head to the Etihad Stadium next Wednesday knowing their chances of progressing any further in the competition are extremely slim, but they are determined to enjoy the rewards of an excellent run so far.
The Brewers have knocked out Aston Villa, Burnley, Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough to reach the last four, but after watching City’s 2-1 win over Premier League title rivals Liverpool on Thursday night Clough was realistic about his side’s prospects of going any further.
“We’ve not gone into any detail with them because that will frighten the life out of them,” he said. “They know. They watch Match of the Day every week. They know exactly how good they are.
“We’ll approach it exactly the same way we did against the Championship clubs and Burnley. We can’t do too much on them because we don’t know what team they’ll play.
“It helps in some ways because we can focus on ourselves, do our jobs and hopefully they’ll have a terrible night which is what it will take for something to happen in our favour.”
Clough was twice a winner of the League Cup as a player with Forest, in 1989 and 1990, and he was reacquainted with the trophy as he sat alongside it on Friday.
But while the silver glistened on the table, he was determined not to be sidetracked from his main goals for the season, with his side up to 13th in League One but still only five points above the drop zone.
“We’ll be stressing to the players that the Rochdale match (on Saturday) is the more important one,” he said. “We’re not that many points above the relegation zone and we want to establish ourselves in the top half of the table.
“City will take care of itself, one way or another. The next two league games are more important in our minds.”
Even so, the tie will evoke memories of Burton’s 2006 meeting with Manchester United, when they held at bay the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney to earn a goalless draw at home and a replay at Old Trafford which ultimately transformed the club.
Smartly investing their financial windfall, they went from a non-league outfit into a club which enjoyed two seasons in the Championship until suffering relegation on the final day of last season.
“We think about it most days,” Clough said when asked about how far the club have come. “We’ve worked incredibly hard to get to this stage and the only down side we’ve had in 20 minutes was the last four minutes of last season when we got relegated.
“Apart from that it’s all been positive stuff.”
Clough is looking at the semi-final very differently to that United clash given Burton would need not one great night but two to advance over the two legs.
“To reach the League Cup semi-final, in some ways the job is done,” he said. “But we still have an outside chance of achieving a miracle, and that’s what we’ll try for.”
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